Mary Features: Temitope Sonuyi
As many of you read in my blog post “Hot Yoga Virgin”, yoga instructor, Temitope Sonuyi, is a major key in the start of my personal yoga journey. Since 2008, Temitope has dedicated himself to the practice of yoga and teaching those from all walks of life; from youth in juvenile detention centers, the elderly, kids in school to the hipsters on the West Side of Los Angeles. His calm teaching style, inclusive atmosphere and dope playlist is sure to hook the novice or experienced yogini alike. Keep reading to learn more about Temitope's career and philosophy..
Tell me about yourself?
I was raised by Yoruba parents who immigrated from Nigeria and instilled in me the importance of education from an early age. As a youth my focus was primarily education and football. Thankfully I was gifted at both. After high school, I attended MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to study computer science and became an Engineer. I had a knack for putting things together and entrepreneurial endeavors so post-graduation, I began contract work for different startups throughout Santa Monica.
When did you become interested in yoga?
It was never my intention to become a yogi. Yoga was never on my radar. My background was football; I lifted a lot of weights to work out. My fitness routine was about building and maintaining strength. I went to a 24-Hour Fitness on 2nd street and walked past Bryan Kest’s Santa Monica Power Yoga everyday probably subconsciously reinforcing the numerous shallow biases I had about the practice and who it was for.
One day during my lunch break, I met a mysterious man (whom I later found out was a Sikh) and had an extreme spiritual revelation. He changed the complete direction of my life. I was so blessed by the jewels he gave me that day that I began mediating. He suggested I try yoga and I instantly thought of the yoga studio I walked by daily.
I remember the clearly the first class I attended. I was next to a petite woman. We were in down-dog position and within moments I was sweating profusely, barely holding the position. he slender lady next to me was not breaking a sweat. She was holding what seemed to be a relatively simple looking position, almost effortlessly. Prior to this moment I had considered myself strong since I lifted weights regularly and boasted a400lb bench press. At that moment my paradigm was shifted on what it meant to be strong. I began practicing every day and eventually stopped lifting. Next thing I know, I was taking two classes a day and began traveling across the Los Angeles area to be take class from many of the top teachers in town. From that moment in 2008, it was history.
What made you decide to become a yoga instructor?
Soon after I began practicing yoga I stopped lifting weights and started looking at strength and what it meant to be strong quite differently. I fell in love with the practice and I enjoyed the balanced and efficient workout it gave me. After four years of practicing I decided to take the teacher training at CorePower Yoga. I wanted to share the experience of being able to sit and breathe and create your own strength on and off the mat. Being able to cultivate that feeling, is my way of spreading happiness. I enjoy being a vessel of good vibes. When I teach yoga I think of it as a way to raise the planetary karmic coefficient.
Teaching a yoga class gives me the same feeling you receive while practicing. That natural high. Then multiplied by the number of students in the class.
How do you feel about yoga and the black community?
Speaking in terms of color, Yoga comes from brown people; it comes from India. In the early 1900s, Swami Vivekananda was one of the first to bring yogic philosophy and practice to America. He was often mistaken for African American because of his dark skin as people were more familiar with seeing Africans than Indians in America. As yoga became popular in the United States, the face of yoga has naturally become “whiter” as more of the population adopts the practice. In our hyper commercialized and racialized societyit has often been positioned as something that is only for the “privileged” race, even if inadvertently. However, the true the practice of yoga teaches one to look past human-created confines like race, you take away the illusions. In my journey I have been the recipient of yogic knowledge from teachers of many different colors/races/etc. and am thankful for it.
As would benefit any group of people, teaching and learning more about how to meditate and de-stress in our communities can only be a positive thing. I believe the spread of yoga in our communities will bring clarity and open the doors of creativity so we as a people can work together and change the state we often find ourselves in. We will come to understand that to to fix things in this system, it will take us using our economic power as a group to proactively create our own solutions. I strongly believe in creating our own jobs and services. Yoga and mediation is an inside job and a perfect practice to illustrate the inside job it is for us to fix our problems as a community/race/nation/world of people. It is a fractal. When we sit in meditation we confront ourselves to discover how we can be a part of the solution. For each African/Black person the answer will be different. Yoga can be the catalyst.
How does meditation/yoga affect you personally?
Mediation connects me to the higher power I call God. Participating in something that is outside of my culture and religion and seeing how God manifest by connecting me with others and other religions. It helps me look at things in perspective. I understand that we all are souls of the same descent. Our gender, our race are all roles that we play. Mediation and yoga is a tool just like economics.
Have you ever incorporated marijuana in your personal yoga practice?
There was a time when I smoked frequently, and often before class. I enjoyed the body high of a nice indicia before my practices. At the time it helped me be more aware of my body and feel the physicality of the poses more deeply, I loved it! As my mediation practice grew, it (smoking before yoga) began to feel as if I had on a life jacket whilst attempting to dive deep into the bottom of the sea. If I smoked too much, it would keep me up at the surface of my experience instead of allowing me to go deeper. At that point I no longer needed it as a gateway to a deeper experience so it was time to let it go. I had to be willing to let it go in order to go deeper. These days I am very interested in the discovery of the mind’s ability to reproduce any state of consciousness throughdeep meditation without requiring additional outside stimulants.
There was a time when I smoked frequently, and often before class. I enjoyed the body high of a nice indicia before my practices. At the time it helped me be more aware of my body and feel the physicality of the poses more deeply, I loved it! As my mediation practice grew, it (smoking before yoga) began to feel as if I had on a life jacket whilst attempting to dive deep into the bottom of the sea. If I smoked too much, it would keep me up at the surface of my experience instead of allowing me to go deeper. At that point I no longer needed it as a gateway to a deeper experience so it was time to let it go. I had to be willing to let it go in order to go deeper. These days I am very interested in the discovery of the mind’s ability to reproduce any state of consciousness through deep meditation without requiring additional outside stimulants.
Be sure to follow Temitope on Instagram @temitopeyoga. Check out his classes, Mondays 8:30p @ Santa Monica Power Yoga, Wednesdays 9a & 8:30p @ Santa Monica Power Yoga and Thursdays 8:30p @ Corepower Brentwood. Temitope's full schedule including workshops can be found on FavYogis.